For heavy materials manufacturer CalPortland, it pays to be an industry leader in efficiency - Smart Energy Decisions

Demand Management, Energy Efficiency, Industrial  -  June 7, 2016 - By Amy Poszywak

For heavy materials manufacturer CalPortland, it pays to be a leader in energy efficiency

Exclusive to Smart Energy Decisions 

This is the second in a series of original features exploring the successes of a selection of corporations recognized by Energy Star for achievements in energy efficiency. Each company we've talked with for this series, made possible through our partnership with Energy Star, has a unique story about their efforts to reduce electric use across their organization. Taken in aggregate, we hope the series provides readers with a useful glimpse into the kinds of strategies being implemented across the commercial and industrial sectors as well as a deeper understanding of vetted, real-life tactics for cutting consumption. You can read the first in this series here

After three decades of focused attention on driving energy efficiency throughout a business, a company learns a thing or two about best practices.

CalPortland, a diversified building materials and construction solutions provider, is one such entity. The California-based company — which produces cement, concrete and other building materials —became one of the first in its industry to pursue the creation of formal energy management program in the mid-1990s. Today, after making tremendous strides to reduce its own energy use, CalPortland is focused on helping others achieve similar successes in energy use reductions.

Steve Coppinger, vice president of engineering services, credits much of the company’s progress — CalPortland has improved its energy intensity by 15% since 2003 for a total savings of $85 million — to the U.S. EPA's Energy Star program, which CalPortland first joined when it was a small pilot program called ClimateWise. Through the years, Coppinger recently told Smart Energy Decisions, the collaboration with Energy Star helped CalPortland drive significant energy use reductions; not an easy task in an industry like cement and concrete manufacturing, where energy costs can comprise as much as 40% of the variable cost in making its products.

"Since that time, nearly all cement companies have created formal energy programs, assigned dedicated energy managers and actively participated in Energy Star programs and activities," Coppinger said. "More than 25% of cement plants in the industry now have certified Energy Star plants … and the industry has made a substantial shift in improving energy efficiency."

Earlier this year, CalPortland was awarded Energy Star’s partner of the year award for the 12th consecutive year; a large contributing factor to that recognition had to do with its efforts to promote energy efficiency within its industry and to share its energy management expertise with other companies.

The company has done this by promoting energy efficiency in industry associations and committees; mentoring individual companies on energy management; giving presentations and sponsoring outreach events that include its customers, competitors and other industrial and manufacturing companies, Coppinger said. CalPortland has done site visits and training at companies such as Titan Cement Co. in Virginia, Angelus Block Co. in California and CXT Concrete Ties in Arizona, for example, and performed energy treasure hunts to help them uncover new opportunities for savings.

"CalPortland has learned that we can garner benefits by helping others improve their energy management practices," Coppinger said. "For example, by being energy management leaders, we are more respected in our industries and our employees share a great sense of pride that we are being environmentally responsible. Our positive reputation and Energy Star recognition has also helped with our community and government relations." 

On top of this outreach, CalPortland reported a 1.2% reduction in energy intensity 2015 while integrating a new, Energy Star-certified cement plant into its portfolio of production facilities. It also completing a corporate-wide energy challenge to employees to save $1 million in 2015, which it successfully achieved.

“That was done through many different ideas coming from employees, and we gave the best ideas per quarter gift certificates and things like that," Coppinger said. "When we're doing this year after year, we have to keep coming up with creative ideas to keep improving."

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